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Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings is owned by J.R.R. Tolkien, his family, New Line cinema, etc. I have written this for my own enjoyment.
*Feedback very much appreciated.*
Summary: Smaug the dragon seeks retribution after his failed attack on Bilbo and the Dwarves.
Fire and Water
Thwarted by the escape of the slippery Barrel-rider and his thirteen Dwarves, the King under the Lonely Mountain stilled his assault on the outer walls of his home, spread his enormous red-gold wings, and soared south down the River Running with but one thing on his mind: vengeance.
Fire and burning! Aah! Such was the way to vent his frustration! Wreak havoc upon the cohorts who had helped the Barrel-rider steal from Smaug the Truly Terrifying! Make the men of Esgaroth pay first and then return for the Great Offender and his Thirteen Dwarves! Let the invisible thief know that the fiery fate of his accomplices had been his fault, and then execute him in kind.
That was justice.
Anticipation was in his every breath, turning dark waters golden in the inky night, as Smaug swept silently through the air toward the unsuspecting town. Yet, ironically, it was this very beacon in the darkness which alerted the watchmen to his approach. Even as he swept across Lake-town breathing the first of his fiery anger over their homes Smaug found the men not completely unprepared; they had had time to throw down their own bridges and were even now dousing wooden structures with endless buckets of water.
Hah! So they would try to thwart his flames, would they? Let them try! And some little success they may have, but not enough. There were too few buckets and too many targets for that ...
He roared with fire and laughter as he swooped repeatedly upon the flimsy town beneath, and every deadly pass was a mockery of their desperate attempts to save their homes.
Sear their wooden island from existence, that is what Smaug would do! Set their thatched roofs aflame and let the beams which held their town together fall apart until naught was left but remnant curls of smoke ghosting across the dark surface of the water!
Shouting and weeping from below buoyed the dragon as he circled the town once more. Smaug dived, gathering momentum as he sped heedlessly through the oncoming arrow-storm, aimed like a fiery missile at the most prominent structure: the Master of Lake-town's dwelling. Huge wings hugged his flanks until he was almost upon his target, and only when the Great House was in sight did he spread them suddenly, using them to manoeuvre his body so that he could smash the structure with a mighty swipe of his tail. It crumbled instantly. Satisfied, he opened his giant maw wide, expelling countless streams of fire at the surrounding buildings before leaving them to burn.
Smaug circled back again and again over Lake-town, a dreadful flying executioner delighting in his own omnipotence as he punished the masses below for their crimes against him.
How small they were! Hark at the cries of terror! See the naked fear upon their faces! Watch as they throw themselves from the piers into the water like so many rats abandoning a sinking ship. Yes, jump! Jump, each and all! Bundle your families into those bobbing corks and aim them for the shore! All the more fun shall it be to hear both their screams and yours when Death soars toward them.
Dark delight filled him at the prospect. What more fitting price for men's treachery could there be? For this King under the Mountain was no kindly monarch, oh no! When injustice was visited upon Lord Smaug the Impenetrable, it would be returned a thousandfold. There would be no gentle reprimand for those who betrayed him to thieves. Such disloyalty earned only death, and as Death he would fall upon them, swift and terrible, before he finally dealt with the mastermind of this insurrection.
Oh yes! The Barrel-rider may be temporarily beyond Smaug's grasp, but Mr Lucky Number would keep well enough in the dragon's den until his allies had paid for their treachery. For the moment, Smaug would relish his sport. In fact he had not enjoyed town-baiting so much in years! But once he was done with the Lake-men, he would return home and hunt through all the caverns of the Lonely Mountain until he had cornered the one who dared to infiltrate his lair and steal from him!
And then …
Then Smaug the Tremendous would discover exactly what manner of riddling creature had vexed him before he gobbled him up! Though whether he gobbled the interloper raw, or first cooked him in one lazy breath, would depend entirely upon how eloquently the creature begged for mercy. Not that Smaug would show it to him. Yet mercy or not, he was curious: what would he taste like, this mysterious web-cutter from both under the hill and through the air? He did not smell akin to a dwarf, nor even a man. Would he taste as well as either, or worse? No, there could be no doubt as to the sneaking stranger's tenderness because he had certainly smelled well enough back in the treasure-strewn dungeon-hall.
It mattered little, for all of that: Smaug would find out soon enough. For there was nowhere to hide in the Lonely Mountain - even for one who claimed to walk Unseen. There was nowhere to escape from either. None knew the crannies and nooks of a dragon's home better than he himself, and none was more adept at sniffing out a meal. Unseen or not, Smaug the Righteous would soon pluck the stinging fly from his lair as easily as he had plucked the fat little ponies from the stony hollow when they had tried to outrun his grasping talons. Then he would know the taste of both enemy and victory.
And what delicacies they would be!
Cacophonous shrieks from the terrified people of Lake-town diverted Smaug from thoughts of the Ringwinner (and thieving Cupwinner!). Desperate wails and shouts made his wicked heart soar in delight as he dedicated himself anew to expelling more fiery destruction at the traitors' homes and their fleeing heels. Their precious island in the water was now but a sea of flame, isolated by the bridges they themselves had torn down, and flanked by distant trees on the eastern and southern shores which glimmered ruby and black courtesy of Smaug the Master of Wrath. All but the hardiest (or the most foolish) of men were in retreat, and his only resistance now was a small company of archers standing resolute among the burning houses; they were being urged to fight to the last arrow by a grim-voiced man with a great yew bow. Yet even as he spied them, the encroaching fire made them lose heart and they fled, leaving only their foolish captain to make a last pitiful stand.
Smaug decided to deal with him next as he circled back and readied himself for another dive over the river-town. He swooped lower than ever toward the water just as the moon rose suddenly above the eastern shore. Catching a glimpse of his glittering belly reflecting off the surface of the lake below, the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities was unable to resist admiring his own magnificence for the briefest of moments.
How he sparkled! How he shone!
So blinded by the confidence in his own infallibility was he that he missed the chink in his pretty armour which nestled by the hollow of his left breast. All the conceited beast had vain red eyes for was his own perfection.
He was utterly superb! Truly indescribable. Was there ever a one before as beautiful and deadly as he was now, and would there ever be again?
Greatly intrigued by the thought, Smaug tucked it away to reflect upon later at his leisure, and focused once more on the task at hand. Tucking his wings close, he stretched out his neck and aimed straight for the proud, bow-wielding figure standing defiantly amidst the burning houses. As he neared his target he instinctively flung his forelegs wide, so assured in his victory that he paid no heed to the final black shaft launched by the man.
And why should he? What harm could it do him, after all? He was Smaug the Indestructible! Smaug the Wrathful! Smaug the ...
The shaft slammed into the hollow of Smaug's left breast with the same force his tail had used to slam into the Great House not moments before, and so great was the dragon's cry of surprise and anger that men stilled, stone split and trees felled where they stood. Smaug faltered for a moment in mid-air, unable to comprehend what had just happened. But the arrow faltered not - he could still feel it moving inexorably within him. Speeding towards his heart!
Terrified, he knew there was but one thing to do: put some distance between shaft and target.
He responded automatically, shrieking and rising into the sky in a futile attempt to lengthen the arrow's journey. But it was useless: the tip of the Lake-man's black dart pierced his heart before Smaug the Stricken had time to properly acquaint himself with the pain of it.
Stunned, he toppled from the sky and plummeted on the town below with a tremendous crash! His huge form thrashed uselessly upon its bed of wood, and the torn heart floundered, gushing pints of blood into his chest and robbing his lungs of the precious oxygen they craved to expand. A thrumming filled his ears, blocking out all but the sound of his final gasps, and a few remnant sparks from his jaw kindled the wood around Smaug into flames.
Agony and fear and the irony of it all closed upon him in those dying seconds: he had not been slain by a lone archer, he had been slain by his own pride. His own sense of invincibility. Cleverly caught by a Barrel-rider who had spun a web of pretty lies into which Smaug had soared without thought! The thief had tricked him into revealing an unknown weakness, then found the only warrior left alive in Lake-town to take advantage of the information.
The rushing sound of water heading his way heralded Smaug's doom, though he saw it not. Already the red glare in his eyes was dimming. As the first icy fingers of the lake touched his scales, any lingering regrets were swept away as effectively as the burning wood around him, in violent curls of hissing steam. Swirling eddies moved hungrily about his monstrous hide, tugging at him, claiming him, pulling him into the cold embrace of the river that would house his sparkling bones forever.
Smaug the Fool, Master of Vanity was dead.
Author's Note: Chapter title and some text lifted from The Hobbit, Chapter 14: Fire and Water.
Thank you to those kind reviewers who have left feedback for this redrafted chapter.
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